Why do Utahns celebrate Pioneer Day?

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THE NEEDLES, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH STORY US-MORMON by Karen Lowe (2 of 4) Covered wagons stretching back along the high plains of Wyoming make their way along the 1,300 mile Mormon Trail from Illinois to Utah 14 July. Over 400 Mormons in pioneer dress and driving 52 wagons and a dozen handcarts are commemorating the Mormon trek lead by church leader Brigham Young 150 years ago. The wagon train is due to arrive in Salt Lake City 22 July. AFP PHOTO/Mike NELSON (Photo credit should read MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(ABC4) – Pioneer Day is a holiday primarily celebrated in Utah on July 24th with parades, games, rodeos, and barbecues. These festivities commemorate- you guessed it- the state’s pioneer heritage.

And though that much is obvious from the name, transplants to Utah may not be aware of state’s unique pioneer history and why a holiday that passes largely unnoticed by the other 49 states is a big deal here.

Salt Lake City, Utah 1891. H. Wellge, panoramic map artist; Milwaukee Wis.: American Publishing Co., 1891. Panoramic Maps. Geography & Map Division

The information from this story comes from the Library of Congress, Utah.gov, and history.churchofjesuschrist.org.

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints arrived at the Great Salt Lake Valley after being forced from Nauvoo, Illinois due to religious persecution. According to records, Brigham Young viewed the valley from Emigration Canyon and said, “this is the right place. Drive on.”

The Salt Lake Valley was a welcome sight after the grueling trek across the country and through the Rocky Mountains that claimed many lives.

Mormon Temple Grounds. [Salt Lake City, Utah]. L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Panoramic Photographs . Prints & Photographs Division

The settlers wasted no time in planting crops and building, and by the end of the year, roughly 2,000 people had settled in the valley, according to the Library of Congress’ Digital Collections. Tens of thousands of Latter-Day Saints from locations around the world would travel to Utah on the same or similar routes in the following years.

Today, Utahns remember the values of persistence and hard work of the pioneers who settled Utah, on Pioneer Day.

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